Sunday, January 30, 2011

If You're Bored, You're Not Paying Attention

Now that I've been out of work for 15 months many people ask if I'm bored. I feel a lot of things, but bored is not one of them. One of my osteopathic teachers used to say, “if you're bored, you're not paying attention.”

Boredom is a habit that I don't find particularly helpful. It is quite unpleasant and it's not at all reflective of “what is.” In any given moment there is so much going on, that boredom is an odd choice of what to be feeling.

As our culture goes faster and faster, and our options for entertainment and distraction are more and more plentiful and readily available, we can find ourselves feeling discontented when the tempo changes and suddenly there's some time, or space, or silence in which to dwell. I know that my life literally depends on my ability to slow down, be attentive and mindfully choose where and how I spend my precious life energy, so I resist the temptation to override the tempo of my present condition.

I decided to take my commitment to slowing down and being mindful to the next level by doing the training to become a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher. My own meditation and body awareness practices have led me to want to explore teaching from this viewpoint. I hope to be able to teach again someday, and I realized that this approach would support whatever I might teach in the future, as well as my own personal process.

I am in the 4th of 10 weeks of training at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View with Santa Cruz' own Bob Stahl. I was thrilled to discover that it only meets once a week, and that it seems doable in my present state. It's too bad we both have to drive "over the hill" as we say in these parts when we drive north over the Santa Cruz mountains, but this is where the program has been based since Bob founded it in 1993. Since he's the only person offering teacher training outside of the "mothership" based at The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts medical school in Worcester, Massachusetts, I'm not going to complain about the commute. I discovered that not only was training with Bob nearby, but Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli are coming to Mount Madonna next week.  If you don't know who they are and are interested in learning more about them,  click here. The 7-day retreat they will offer here is part of the training process. It seems more than perfect that I can do all this training without getting on a plane!

At the conclusion of my training I will be assisting Bob in teaching an MBSR course at Dominican Hospital. There is a free introductory session on Tuesday, March 8 at 7 pm for those of you who are curious but not ready to sign up. The course begins the following Tuesday and runs for 8 weeks from 7 - 9:30 pm. For details here's the link to Bob Stahl's website:
I will only be at the evening class. 

Whoa. . . I thought I was supposed to be on a sabbatical - not making any plans. I have to reign in my enthusiasm or I will exhaust myself, but this excitement is a sign of healing. I can't wait to have a project, a plan, a new idea and find a way to share it with people. The only problem is --  I still have metastatic cancer, I can barely eat a small plate of food without my hand falling asleep from holding a fork, I get seriously fatigued whenever I don't totally respect my need to rest, and I get easily distracted by the chronic joint and muscle pain I wrestle with. I need to pace myself and see how this all gradually unfolds.

In the meantime, I cannot fathom being bored. Even on a challenging day when I can barely get out of bed, I am endlessly amused by the variation in my heartbeat, by the way my spine moves in wave motion as I breathe, by the sound of my breath, by the ever-changing sky, the undulation of the branches of the trees in the breeze, and the sound of the surf in the distance.

Today's New York Times had an article on meditation and its influence on the brain. Although my current favorite "pop" meditation book is Mindsight: The New Science of Transformation by Dan Siegel, this is a nice little intro for those of you not so familiar with the subject.

If you want a very entertaining summary of Mindsight, here's Dan Siegel and Blue Man Group, who play the part of those pesky voices in our heads:

Here's the link to The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts medical school if you're interested in more information on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: